Happy Halloween to all the gaming ghosts and ghouls out there settling down tonight to some warm cider, unhealthy candy, and an evening of ooky-spooky tabletop fun. In the spirit of the holiday, we’ve decided to round up our favorite games released in 2019 that are, shall we say, on theme. 2019 was a hell of a year for scary games, and we had a hard time narrowing things down. However, you can rest assured any of these games are perfect for your next haunting, graveyard dance, or bonfire sacrifice.
Publisher: Leder Games
Retail: Base Game $75, Expansion $40
What better way to lead off a list of ghoulish games than one themed around a haunted house?! It’s got spooky scary skeletons, giant spiders, an evil house, and more all working to beat the other factions in the house. Yes, you don’t just play in a haunted house, you can play AS a haunted house. It has all the clever writing and depth you expect from a Leder Games (especially since this one was designed by the man himself, Patrick Leder). It’s buoyed by the always amazing art by Kyle Ferrin, as well as the fantastic production Leder has made standard (the minis of The Giant Spider are particularly neat). The expansion, Haunted Hallways, adds in the Fighter from previous game Vast: The Crystal Caverns and the Dark Paladin, a mirror of this game’s main adventurer. It’s even fully compatible with the previous games in the series, meaning you can have a dragon in your haunted house because, hey, why not? It’s Halloween!
You can pick up Vast: The Mysterious Manner and the expansion Haunted Hallways in Leder’s store, where they’ll run you about $75 and $40, respectively.
You can find out more about Vast: The Mysterious Manor in my GenCon report from its debut, and be sure to keep an eye out for a full review soon!
2-4 Mad Scientists
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
When you’re blue and you don’t know where to turn to why don’t you go where fashion sits?
No, I won’t just make Young Frankenstein jokes the whole time (though the temptation is quite strong). Anyway, this was another big GenCon game that I sadly missed in that whirlwind. Set 20 years after the classic novel, this is a competetive monster-building game. Let me say that again: COMPETITIVE MONSTER BUILDING. How cool a concept is that!? It’s a variation on worker placement where players put their assistants around Paris to gather the materials needed for their creation. But you have to be careful, as your building materials don’t…really keep. You have to race the decomposition clock while also overcoming narrative challenges and making choices that impact the success of your creation. Will you discover the secret of mortality, or will you go down in history as a scientist with an Abby Normal brain?
You can pickup Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein on Amazon
1-5 Cultists (6 with Expansion)
Publisher: Kolossal Games
Retail: Base Game $20, Expansion $12 (Halloween Only)
You can’t beat the Lovecraft Mythos when it comes to terror. And even if you wanted to, it’s kind of hard to escape (this isn’t the only Cthulhu-y game on this list). This one takes a distinctly different tack from most eldritch games in that you’re not investigating, stopping, or even hastening the return of the Old Ones. Instead, you’re trying to rob HP Lovecraft blind. Which, in a way, makes it the best game inspired by the man. It’s a hidden identity game where players compete for the best loot, hoping to end the game the richest and least crazy. But not all players have the same goals, as some are working to release the Old Gods and others are trying to stop their release. It’s got some AMAZING art in it that really captures the oily, grimy terror of the characters and setting. There’s also a solo mode where you compete with Lovecraft directly for control of his non-Euclidean loot.
The game is on sale through the Kolossal website, where it’s on sale for Halloween. You can also pick up the expansion “Madness Stirs,” which adds in lots of new monsters and an extra player, as well as the very useful playmat and the “Deluxed Edition,” which ups the production value and adds a bunch of little feelies in to make the game even cooler.
1-5 Pieces of Wormfood
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Let’s move out of the gothic darkness of Lovecraft and into the sun-baked Southwest, where Terror Below pits you against giant, mutant worms. It’s a bit more on the silly end of the horror scale, and is perfect for fans of movies like Slither or Tremors. It’s a co-op game where players have to use their characters and actions wisely to move around and deal with W.O.R.M eggs scattered around town. You’ll also be prepping for the inevitable battle with the big W.O.R.Ms, and let’s just say you’re at a slight disadvantage.
You can pick up Terror Below on Amazon.
2-3 Fiends (up to 7 with both games)
Publisher: Deeply Dapper Games
Retail: $25 each or $45 for collected “Deluxe” edition
Cast your minds back to the video stores of yesterday, where the walls were damp, the floor was sticky, and the clerk knew where all the grossest, goriest Z-movie horror flicks were hiding. That is the feel of Creature Features, another game of monster building but as a fast-paced card game. Each player swaps parts on the “Slab” to try to build the best monster, while also working to sabotage or outright steal from their esteemed competition. It comes in a retro plastic VHS case and is super expandable and flexible, with monsters from bother expansions interchangeable with each other and plenty of room for multiple players. If you’re a fan of movie monsters or the classic feel of the VHS, this might be for you.
You can pick up both versions of Creature Features on Deeply Dapper’s shop, as well as the “Deluxe” edition (which has its own special box, and even the super special Kickstarter Deluxe Edition, which adds stickers, pins, and signed cover art!
Publisher: The op
Let’s stay below for a little, shall we? IT: Evil Below is the official adaptation of the new IT movies being released (the not Tim Curry ones). It adapts the events of IT: Chapter One, pitting the Losers Club (controlled by the players) against Pennywise himself. You’ll all work together to beat him, travelling around Derry to find, weaken, and eventually destroy the Dancing Clown once and for all. It’s got art straight from the movie that is as colorful and spine-tingling as Pennywise himself. Plus, it’s a great way to make your coulrophobic friends go home early!
You can pick up IT: Evil Below on Amazon
Publisher: IDW Games
Blackout is a loving tribute to the history of Ghostbusters, from the original classic all the way up to the modern remake. Rather than use film stills or promo artwork, Blackout features all new art that help it stand on its own as a part of the Ghostbusters franchise. Though similar to the Ghostbusters cartoon from the 80’s, it’s not identical and is in many ways more detailed and scarier than that art (also Egon isn’t blonde). It’s a co-op game where up to four players (naturally) allocate their dice to gather equipment, capture ghosts, and protect New York. There’s even a solo mode if you want to live out your solo bustin’ dreams. That came out wrong.
You can pick up Ghostbusters:Blackout on Amazon. And be sure to keep an eye out here for a full review of the game soon!
Publisher: Chaosium Inc.
Part of Chaosium’s recent foray into the world of board games, Miskatonic University is a push-your-look card collecting game themed around the most horrifying subject of all: academia. Set in the eponymous university within the world of Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, players are all faculty trying to be named Head of the Library Committee. To do this, you’ll prowl around the ancient and cursed Restricted Collection of the MU library to gather sigils and grimoires and hopefully defeat some eldritch monster who has invaded the library. There’s even wandering graduate students you can sacrifice, just like in real academia! Outside of the very fun and creepy theme, it has an extremely unique look to it as well, with special cards and maps that all look straight out of the library of the game’s setting. Many of its pieces can be doubled up for use in your CoC games as well, if the mood strikes.
You can pick up Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection on Amazon.
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
If you’ve been anywhere near hobby gaming this year,you’ve heard of Dead Man’s Cabal. It has basically all of the ingredients needed for a bone-a-fied hit: excellent design, fun gameplay, unique art, and a dope theme. You are a necromancer, and though you have learned all there is to know about the secrets of death…you’re lonely. As such, you are working to use your unholy magics to resurrect some folks and throw yourself a party! To do this, you’ll have to get bodies, crystal skulls (no vodka), and runes in the right order to resurrect the dead. But you have to be careful, as everyone’s actions are interconnected and you may move your opponent ahead three steps while only moving yourself up one. The game pieces are also perfect for Halloween: BONES! SO MANY BONES!
1-3 Students & 1 Anomaly
Publisher: Starling Games
What’s scarier than being hunted by a monster? What if we put that monster IN SPACE?!?! Yes you too can recreate your favourite interstellar horror flick with Anomaly. It won some big awards in its native France for its asymmetrical, challenging, and fun gameplay. Players are students at Space…Camp? I’m not sure, but you’re space students and you have to fend off this Anomaly that has entered your space station school (maybe it’s like a dark Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century thing) and is growing stronger by the second. Unlike IT: Evil Below, where your fellow Losers know what you’re doing, in Anomaly your actions have to remain a mystery lest the Anomaly find you. Not only that, but there is someone playing the Anomaly against you, upgrading abilities and trying to suss out your goals before you can fulfill them. It also has this really cool neon-retro vibe that’s both Bladerunner and Alien, and is one of the most unique games to come out this year.
You can pick up Anomaly on Amazon (in stock on November 6th), and be sure to tune in soon for a full review!
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Arkham Horror is an honest-to-Cthulhu classic of tabletop horror gaming, and for very good reason. It, along with Mansions of Madness, basically helped to codify the entire genre of “Eldritch Investigation” board gaming. But both of those games can take a long, long time to playthrough (especially when Arkham Horror’s many expansions are involved). Final Hour, however, is a conscious attempt to not have a game take hours to play. Set in the same world as the core Arkham Horror series, Final Hour takes place AFTER a ritual to summon an Old One has been completed. You’re not stopping it, you’re not investigating it. It’s happened. However, you do have a chance to reverse the ritual and put that thing back where it cam from. It’s fast paced and fun, with lots of references to past games and plenty of replayability. It’s not an easy game, however, and it’s going to take all of your cunning and grit if you want to save the world.
You can pre-order Arkham Horror: Final Hour on Amazon, where it’s set to arrive the first week of November.
Pumpkins. We’ve all seen them. Sitting on stoops and sidewalks, slowly rotting away to be tossed into a ditch on November first. Is there any greater symbol for Halloween? What if we took the pumpkins and made them EVIL?! That’s exactly what Brouhaha Games (a Halloween-focused company after my own heart) did with Pumpkin Patch: Bad Seeds. In the game, players are racing to place pumpkins and collect as many seeds as possible before the final pumpkin is planted. Different pumpkins grant different amounts of seeds, and some even have special powers that can thwart your fellow gourd growers. You also have a crow you can use to block other players from planting in certain places. It’s a pretty fast paced game perfect for Halloween parties where you might not have time to whip out one of the big boys.
You can pickup Pumpkin Patch: Bad Seeds on Amazon.
I don’t really like to rank these because beauty is often in the eye of the beholder (his name is Larry), but let’s be real. This is probably the MOST Halloween game released this year, and is probably up there for all time. Horrified features not one, not two, not even four, but seven iconic horror monsters straight from the Universal Monsters stable. Every single heavy hitter of horror is here, even Boris Karloff’s Mummy. There’s townsfolk to rescue, items to gather, and each monster has their own win condition you need to meet to beat them. It’s chock full of references to the source material and includes a gorgeous set of minis to represent each monster. Plus, you can modulate the difficulty by adding and subtracting monsters, as well as trying the game out solo.
You can pick up Horrified on Amazon, and stay tuned for our full review soon!
There’s lots of other spooky games out there, and plenty from the past worth checking out. For some more recommendations, check out guide primer to Halloween party prep. What games will you be playing tonight, while the ghosts haunt and the goblins dance? Sound off in the comments!
All images via their respective owners.